One of the best games of all time just got even better.
To label a game as the best of its generation is a bold claim, especially when its release came at the tail-end of an era that brought us memorable series like Uncharted, Mass Effect and the oh so endearing Super Mario Galaxy. With some of the best visuals the PS3 ever produced juxtaposed over a gritty world where brutality and greed seem to be the only means of survival, The Last of Us found itself a home in the hearts of millions. Guiding Joel and Ellie across a post-apocalyptic United States where if the infected don't kill you, other survivors will, was perhaps the most rewarding gameplay experience of all time, mainly due to the remarkable character development of the protagonists. It was hard to imagine any improvements could be made on such a masterpiece... that is until The Last of Us Remastered made its way to the PS4.
For anyone who played the original, the most noticeable difference is the visual quality. It's insane to think that such a beautiful game could be improved upon, but The Last of Us Remastered does just that with more detailed textures and enhanced lighting effects. This time around, the grim setting is displayed in beautiful 1080p HD, managing to make the dilapidated buildings and unkempt landscapes gorgeous in their own right. On top of that, the frame-rate has been boosted from 30 to 60 fps, enhancing the experience with more fluid movements.
This fluidity doesn't only work in increasing the game's stunning graphical quality, it also improves on core gameplay mechanics. Before, the slightly choppier frame-rate made the wonky shooting mechanics frustrating, albeit it didn't take away from the well-designed encounters. Now that it's more polished, aiming is a lot less irritating, allowing you to smoothly guide your crosshairs from one enemy to the next. The focus of this game was never on shooting, however, which is precisely why this problem was initially overlooked. This is a game that has a strong emphasis in stealth and melee combat, and it's relieving to see that Naughty Dog left those aspects as perfect as they were in the PS3 version. Most of the time ammo is scarce which is why sneaking and bludgeoning take priority over shooting.
Although the combat is exhilarating in itself, the real talking point of this work of art is its beautifully dark story full of moral grays and alliances forged for the purpose of survival. It's amazing to watch Joel and Ellie start their journey as an odd couple and slowly transition into a strong relationship, resembling that of a father and daughter. The highlights of the game don't necessarily come from major events, but from the more nuanced moments where Joel and Ellie are relaxed enough to learn more about each other.
Also included is the amazing story DLC Left Behind, another gripping narrative that dives into Ellie's past and fills a gap within the main story. It pristinely transitions between the bleakness of Ellie's struggle to care for her companion to lighthearted flashbacks of misadventures with her best friend.
On top of the added story DLC, The Last of Us Remastered brings back one of the most unique online multiplayer modes on the market, along with extra content for it. Called Factions, it takes place decades after the initial outbreak of the Cordyceps virus, leaving uninfected humans fighting for survival. There are two rivaling factions, the rebel group called The Fireflies and the Hunters. The point of the game is to collect more supplies than the other team over a course of twelve weeks, each match counting as one day, creating a sense of urgency when you're out on the field scrapping for goods. Through this game mode, you get a strong feel for what it's like to be those many survivors you beat the hell out of in the campaign.
Out of the few new features added, the coolest has to be Photo Mode. This tool allows you to take a still-frame of the game at any moment, and edited it to your liking through various options. Whether you want to pivot the camera to get a better angle of the action or put a red filter over the clip to make it look more brutal, there are plenty of tools at your disposal that can help you convey what you want through your photos. Once you're done perfecting them, they can be shared on the PlayStation Network for all your friends to see.
Perhaps one of the most marveling features of The Last of Us is its terrific voice acting, sound effects and moody score. Each and every character is so well acted from Joel's gruff voice matching his rugged exterior, to Ellie's spunky quips and foul language coordinating with her angsty teen appearance. Gunshots are crisp, and the footsteps of nearby enemies become louder as they approach. Most notably, the ungodly clicking noises of clickers and screams of runners send chills down your spine, keeping you alert during encounters. To top it all off, the score consists of dissonant, gloomy guitar tones that strike at all the right moments, and amplify the overall ambiance of the game.
Playing on the DualShock 4 is also vastly more satisfying than on the DualShock 3. With its superior design, analogue stick layout and triggers, gunplay on the DualShock 4 feels more natural. The Last of Us Remastered also makes good use of the touchpad, using it to open the Joel's backpack when the player wants to upgrade skills, craft items and observe memorabilia acquired throughout the story. Another nice, but small, feature is how audio recordings play through the controller's speaker, similar to Killzone Shadowfall.
As hard as it was to imagine that The Last of Us could get any better, Naughty Dog stepped up and delivered a fully upgraded edition of their masterpiece. If you haven't played this game, please do yourself a favor and play the original or the remake. For those who've already completed it, this new remastered version is completely upgraded with all DLC included, along with cool new features like Photo Mode. At a price of $50, you can't go wrong with this package. Just as it was the best game of the last generation, it stands tall as the best currently available for this one.
Reviewed on PlayStation 4
All images courtesy of Sony Computer Entertainment.